Uganda is one of Africa’s natural paradises. There are enough mountains, hills, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers to last a traveler a lifetime, some of them truly iconic. Uganda contains the source of the river Nile, the shores of Africa’s largest lake, and the hills that house some of the world’s last remaining gorillas.
Indeed, the wild inhabitants of the country are its biggest draw. Some people visit Uganda exclusively for the chance to spot a gorilla or chimpanzee during a jungle trek, or to observe one of the Big Five on a safari. However, many tours also offer the chance to discover Kampala, one of East Africa’s friendliest and most pleasant capital cities, as well as the wealth of cultural heritage to be found throughout the country.
Perhaps Uganda’s most iconic inhabitants are its elusive and increasingly endangered gorillas. Gorilla trekking is the most popular type of tour, taking you deep into the misty mountains to catch a glimpse of these majestic animals. It is often combined with chimpanzee trekking and visits to game reserves, where you have the chance to spot Africa’s Big Five: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and Cape buffalo.
It’s not just the animals inhabiting Uganda’s wilderness that are worth the trip. The wilderness itself is one of Africa’s most stunning, from lush mountain jungles to dramatic waterfalls, the shores of Lake Victoria, and the source of the Nile itself. These destinations come with great opportunities for hiking, trekking, swimming, rafting, and a host of other heart-pumping adventures like zip lining and horseback riding.
Uganda’s culture and history often take a backseat to its stunning natural beauty, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to see and do. There are palaces, museums, and beautiful colonial buildings to be enjoyed in Kampala, as well as bustling markets and pleasant gardens. Beyond the capital, historical sites are dotted throughout the country, including shrines, forts, and great tombs.
Uganda is not known for being particularly difficult to travel in, as other East African nations sometimes are. Travel infrastructure is quite well-established, and tours will ensure that all transport goes smoothly.
Best Time to Visit Uganda
The best time to visit Uganda is between June and September. Temperatures are more or less constant throughout the year, but during this season, there is not too much rainfall. January and February are also good times to visit. During the rest of the year, the rainy season can make outdoor activities unpredictable.
That said, it’s not uncommon for people to visit Uganda in the off-season, and it doesn’t much get in the way of traveling around the country. Visiting during this time can also be cheaper, and there will be fewer people in the jungles and on trekking paths.
What to Look for in a Tour of Uganda
Most people visit Uganda to see wildlife. Therefore, the vast majority of tours, even those that don’t necessarily focus on this, include a day or two of gorilla trekking or a safari trip. It’s up to you to decide whether wildlife is your main motivation for visiting Uganda. If so, a tour that spends more time in National Parks and game reserves will be for you.
If you want to get a broader look at the country, including its cities and cultural sights, look specifically for cultural or "Best of Uganda" tours.
Typical Tour Cost
A week-long tour of Uganda, including safari and gorilla trekking experiences, usually costs around $2,300-$3,500, depending on the activities included and the level of accommodation. Longer tours start at around $4,500 for 10 days, and shorter 5-day tours can be found at around $1,500.
A gorilla tracking permit costs $500-$600 and is usually included in the cost of a trekking tour. It is a good idea to double-check before booking if this is an activity you want to do.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Most tours will include the gear for specific outdoor activities, such as rafting. Camping is not the norm for safari and trekking experiences, so you don’t have to worry about bringing any overnight gear. The main thing you should focus on is bringing appropriate clothes and shoes for intensive hiking in the heat, as well as a few usual practical extras such as a flashlight and paper tissues.
Other Tips for Travel in Uganda
You are unlikely to find anywhere that takes credit or debit card outside of Kampala or Entebbe, however, you are also unlikely to need cash in the jungle. Get cash for trips to towns and villages so you can buy snacks and souvenirs. US dollars are usually accepted, but if you decide to exchange some for Ugandan shillings, make sure to use $50 and $100 notes as these get significantly better rates.
Tipping is usually encouraged during tours and safaris, although not mandatory. If you are happy with your guides, it is customary to tip each of them about $10-15 a day.
You will need a yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter Uganda. You should be up to date with all your routine vaccinations, as well as typhoid and Hepatitis A. Hepatitis B, cholera, and rabies shots may be necessary, as well as antimalarial medication. If in doubt, ask your tour operator for a list of recommended vaccines and treatments.
Make sure you are fully insured before traveling, including coverage for potentially dangerous adventure activities. Healthcare facilities outside of Kampala may be basic, so check whether your insurance covers transport if required. Your tour group will most likely have a first-aid kit, so you don’t necessarily have to bring your own, but it’s a good idea to pack any specific medicines you might need.
Tap water is not safe to drink, and you should only drink water that has been boiled, bottled, or filtered.
Uganda is not particularly unsafe, and crime rates in Kampala and other cities are comparatively low. That said, you should still be cautious when walking around cities to not flash cash or expensive possessions.
Food provided by your tour should be safe, but for any other meals, you should practice common sense. Don’t eat anything that looks or smells suspicious, only eat from very busy stalls and cafes, and avoid both ice and fresh salads as they may have been made with unsafe water.